Same-Day Surgery Manager

Steps to prepare for a disaster

By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Austin, TX

As we start a new year, this is a good time to do some internal housekeeping and defensive planning.

If you live in the northern states, you need to deal with blizzards, ice, and snow. The southern states generally must address hurricanes, and southern and midwestern states have to be ready for tornadoes. The Gulf states have the hurricanes. California has its fires, floods, earthquakes, landslides, and general mayhem.

As the recent fires and hurricanes proved, we need to make sure that we are prepared, not only for the influx of patients, but for the potential physical destruction of our hospitals, surgery centers, and surgical suites. Hundreds of facilities were affected this year alone and, according to what we hear from reported experts, it only is going to get worse.

What would you take out of your facility if you only had one hour to prepare? Patient records? Computer hard drives? Employee and pay records? Where would you put them? Do you have boxes available? Who can carry all this? Where would you take it? What authority do you need to even take it out?

Being the "worst-case scenario" person that I am, I lie awake at night thinking about this. Hurricane Ike took our summer home, and we essentially lost everything because we didn't have a plan. It can happen to your facility as well.

Don't let a disaster be a disaster twice by losing more than just your physical plant.

  • Determine what you critically need when you leave the facility and how you are going to handle it.
  • Make sure your critical computer data are backed up off-site. Consider backing them up hourly online. Check with your IT personnel to see how to automate this process. More companies go out of business after a disaster because they lost their computer data.
  • Don't forget payroll info.
  • Scopes are expensive. What is the best method for getting your more expensive and portable equipment out. What about those expensive "towers?" They can be wheeled someplace safe.
  • Plan! Plan! Plan!

Remember that after the disaster, you are going to need to get back in business as fast as possible. How you plan before it happens will determine how quickly you can get back after the excitement is over. (Editor's note: Earnhart & Associates is an ambulatory surgery consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management.)